How Cases Are Made
It is accepted wisdom that technological advances have radically altered the path of criminal investigations. Crimes that were once impossible to solve have been given new hope with science. An unintended consequence of these advances has been a reliance on scientific methods at the expense of “good-old-fashioned police work.” Both clearly have their place in the investigative process.
Your assignment this semester will be to research the uses of an assigned investigative technique currently employed by law enforcement agencies. When conducting your research, be sure to gather information on the following points:
1. Introduction to the technique. For many of these topics, you can begin your research at some of the websites listed on the syllabus. 2. Historical development of the technique. This should include the inventor or developer of the technique and the first time the technique was applied to criminal investigations. 3. Current uses for investigators. This includes what types of crimes the technique is most commonly used to investigate, what information the investigators are hoping to obtain by using the technique, and how this information will advance a criminal investigation. 4. Problems encountered when testifying in court. This includes the hurdles that the technique has had to overcome in the past, and current problems experienced when an officer or expert has to testify at a criminal trial. 5. Shortcomings and/or misconceptions. This includes erroneous perceptions that the public has of the technique and inflated expectations of the technique. For example, should the public expect DNA testing to be a viable technique to investigate a burglary case?6. Predictions for future uses for criminal investigations. The National Institute of Justice, a research and development institution within the United States Department of Justice that evaluates current programs, has a section devoted to forensic sciences and a section devoted to law enforcement that may help you develop this section. 7. Concluding remarks. This is your overall evaluation of whether the technique has ultimately been a help to criminal investigations or if the problems encountered outweigh the benefits to make the technique virtually useless.
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